Traffic issues raised by the yeshiva project on West Clarkstown Road
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Lawyer says traffic problems undermine religious group’s right to practice religion
By Tina Traster
Like an outgoing gunslinger with a show of force, the attorney representing a plaintiff who wants to build a girls’ Yeshiva at 31-41 West Clarkstown Road in New City, has opened with the right of religious organizations to build even though he is This is a traffic burden to the community when he addressed the Clarkstown Planning Council last week.
“The traffic problems need to be resolved,” said Ira Emanuel, who represents the claimant. But the lawyer said traffic problems take a back seat to a religious group’s right to practice their faith and it is the city’s responsibility to find a solution to alleviate the traffic.
The board of directors, as well as a large audience that came to talk about the project, understood Emanuel’s veiled allusion to the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Person’s Act (RLUPA) cases, which, as the lawyer said, “have different standards” and show greater deference. the rights of a group to worship or teach.
The request, which has been before the board since 2018, has generated a large crowd as West Clarkstown Road and surrounding streets are under great pressure with current and proposed development.
The applicant, Congregation Kollel Lomdei Shas in Spring Valley, which wishes to develop the property as 31 W. Clarkstown LLC, plans to demolish two single family homes, combine the lots and build a 37,455 square foot private school for 600 students. (K-8) and 50 parking spaces on 6.6 acres of R-40 zoned land. The plan also calls for at least 15 school buses. Schools are a permitted use in the R-40 zones.
The hearing, which began after 10 p.m. Wednesday, and was reduced to a discussion between the developer and the board, as well as limited public comment from current officials or candidates, focused entirely on traffic. . Specifically, on entering and exiting the site on West Clarkstown Road and the impact this would have on New Hempstead Road and the entrance to Palisades Drive.
The whole hour-long discussion focused on the potential impact on traffic.
The promoter of the proposed school, who hired The Multi Group of Companies to conduct a traffic study, told the Planning Council that the study showed that the proposed school would not have a significant impact on traffic. circulation. Rabbi Eliyahu Rokowsky, executive director of Bais Yaakov Elementary School in Chestnut Ridge, said they based their assumptions on that school’s student body and traffic patterns gathered over the past decade at a “sister school.” Of the proposed school for girls. in the new town.
“There is no traffic on Route 45 in the morning at Chestnut Ridge,” Rokowsky said. “No backup. Zero.”
Rokowsky said at least 90 percent of students will take the bus rather than being driven by car. He told the council that mainly preschoolers are dropped off by their parents or guardians carpooling in around 30 cars. He estimated that about fifteen buses that could carry up to 72 students would arrive at arrival and departure times staggered between the morning rush hour from 7.45 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. and holidays from 4.15 p.m. to 5 p.m. .
The plaintiff said the additional traffic on West Clarkstown Road would not worsen the already difficult traffic conditions there “by more than 10 percent”.
The requester did not add a specific count for visitors or for deliveries to the school cafeteria.
Board Chairman Gil Heim and Member Phillip DeGaetano showed a clear degree of disbelief when told that the school would not have a negative impact on traffic. Rokowsky invited board members to observe the traffic patterns around his existing school in Chestnut Ridge.
Developers seeking to build new projects (schools, housing estates, housing for the elderly), especially in residential areas, recognize that traffic is an issue, but they almost always argue that the additional impacts of their projects on traffic n ‘will not have a significant negative impact.
The methodology used by the developers is as follows: (1) establish a baseline, either now or in the recent past, which represents the normal and existing traffic flow at a particular intersection or road; (2) Then compare what would happen in the future if their project was not built (normal traffic growth models) with what the traffic will look like if and when their project is built (normal growth models plus their incremental traffic).
If the result of “construction” versus “no-construction” traffic is essentially the same or within certain predefined parameters, then the project has no “significant impact” on traffic. If the results show a “significant impact,” the developer introduces mitigation options (usually by changing the traffic light schedule or adding a turn lane or staggered school bus schedules) to make their project acceptable. . Developer 31-41 offered the first and third options.
The scale used by traffic consultants is basically the – A to F rating, also known as the Service Level Rating (LOS). “A” ratings are the best. The “E” and “F” ratings are the worst. Not all municipalities define a “significant impact”, but some municipalities, including Clarkstown, define a “significant negative impact” as a “significant negative impact” such as one that is rated D or worse when the proposed project increases traffic delays. by 10% or more. Even if a Service Level goes from D to E or from E to F, if the degradation margin is less than 10%, the impact is not considered significant.
For some types of development, traffic consultants rely on data from published manuals on traffic generation, for example for warehouses and distribution centers. But when there is no published data to rely on, the planning board must rely on the developer’s representations or test their accuracy.
Board member Streitman noted “there’s a lot of gray data.”
The planning board must consider one application at a time, but community members who show up in large numbers express concerns about at least six pending development projects on the predominantly residential road which is also County Road 35A. , which connects New Hempstead Road and New Clarkstown Road, at the western end of Clarkstown bordering the town of Ramapo.
In May, Planning Council granted preliminary site plan approval for the demolition of the existing L’Dor assisted living facility at 156 West Clarkstown Road without discussing the impact of traffic on the road in his outfit. L’Dor plans to build a new replacement property of 40 units on two floors.
The most visible site that would undergo transformation is the former Champion Day Camp site at 175 West Clarkstown Road, which more recently operated as Camp Merockdim, an Orthodox Jewish day camp. Rockland County developer Gabe (Gavriel) Alexander is under contract to purchase the 9-acre parcel in New City.
The next hearing on 31-41 is set for October 20e.